“Peace should never be taken for granted.
The wise never forget this fact.
Frequently the young do – to their cost.
The pain of war passes unheeded through the generations.”

When he first read the next note, he found it difficult to connect to its message. All that changed in the next six hours.

Edwin visited his mother.

His visits were far too infrequent but he had always blamed that on her being Difficult – Capital D – which always sapped his energy. He loved his mother of course but their relationship had always been strained. She was getting on now but still had a big enough collection of marbles. They had a lovely meal and somehow their talk turned to her wartime experiences.

Edwin always liked to hear about these times as he felt it gave him a window on a very different time in history. Little did he know that this story would have a big impact on him.

The subject was the boat trip that her parents, herself and her brother of four years had taken from the Mediterranean back to England in 1942. She had been eight at the time. The ship came under attack from enemy planes and she and her brother were placed in the care of two sailors as the aircraft began to strafe the vessel. As they were climbing up a ladder to another deck her brother and guardian sailor went first followed by Edwin’s mother and her guardian. But as her guardian climbed the steps he was killed by machine gun fire from the aircraft and fell back to the deck below with three red dots on his chest marking the exit wounds from the bullets.

It was at this point that Edwin almost dropped his teacup on the floor as his mother related this fact as if commenting on the weather.

He suddenly realized how such an experience must have affected his mum, only eight at the time, and it was as if a door had been opened onto another room of his mother’s psyche. No wonder she was Difficult. Capital D.

Edwin left his mother’s house filled with a new respect and love for her but with a sense also of loss. Had he ever really known her? Had her experience of an external war somehow unconsciously fomented his internal war?

When he arrived home and re-read the note, his tears fell on the paper as they washed away the scales from his eyes. He now realized how blind he had been to the nuances of one of the most important relationships in his life.

Things would never be the same.

© Charles Tolman 2013.

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